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Octaves

Written by: Edwin Arlington Robinson | Biography
 | Quotes (9) |
 I 

We thrill too strangely at the master's touch;
We shrink too sadly from the larger self
Which for its own completeness agitates
And undetermines us; we do not feel -- 
We dare not feel it yet -- the splendid shame
Of uncreated failure; we forget,
The while we groan, that God's accomplishment
Is always and unfailingly at hand.
II Tumultuously void of a clean scheme Whereon to build, whereof to formulate, The legion life that riots in mankind Goes ever plunging upward, up and down, Most like some crazy regiment at arms, Undisciplined of aught but Ignorance, And ever led resourcelessly along To brainless carnage by drunk trumpeters.
III To me the groaning of world-worshippers Rings like a lonely music played in hell By one with art enough to cleave the walls Of heaven with his cadence, but without The wisdom or the will to comprehend The strangeness of his own perversity, And all without the courage to deny The profit and the pride of his defeat.
IV While we are drilled in error, we are lost Alike to truth and usefulness.
We think We are great warriors now, and we can brag Like Titans; but the world is growing young, And we, the fools of time, are growing with it: -- We do not fight to-day, we only die; We are too proud of death, and too ashamed Of God, to know enough to be alive.
V There is one battle-field whereon we fall Triumphant and unconquered; but, alas! We are too fleshly fearful of ourselves To fight there till our days are whirled and blurred By sorrow, and the ministering wheels Of anguish take us eastward, where the clouds Of human gloom are lost against the gleam That shines on Thought's impenetrable mail.
VI When we shall hear no more the cradle-songs Of ages -- when the timeless hymns of Love Defeat them and outsound them -- we shall know The rapture of that large release which all Right science comprehends; and we shall read, With unoppressed and unoffended eyes, That record of All-Soul whereon God writes In everlasting runes the truth of Him.
VII The guerdon of new childhood is repose: -- Once he has read the primer of right thought, A man may claim between two smithy strokes Beatitude enough to realize God's parallel completeness in the vague And incommensurable excellence That equitably uncreates itself And makes a whirlwind of the Universe.
VIII There is no loneliness: -- no matter where We go, nor whence we come, nor what good friends Forsake us in the seeming, we are all At one with a complete companionship; And though forlornly joyless be the ways We travel, the compensate spirit-gleams Of Wisdom shaft the darkness here and there, Like scattered lamps in unfrequented streets.
IX When one that you and I had all but sworn To be the purest thing God ever made Bewilders us until at last it seems An angel has come back restigmatized, -- Faith wavers, and we wonder what there is On earth to make us faithful any more, But never are quite wise enough to know The wisdom that is in that wonderment.
X Where does a dead man go? -- The dead man dies; But the free life that would no longer feed On fagots of outburned and shattered flesh Wakes to a thrilled invisible advance, Unchained (or fettered else) of memory; And when the dead man goes it seems to me 'T were better for us all to do away With weeping, and be glad that he is gone.
XI So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended, And unremunerative years we search To get where life begins, and still we groan Because we do not find the living spark Where no spark ever was; and thus we die, Still searching, like poor old astronomers Who totter off to bed and go to sleep, To dream of untriangulated stars.
XII With conscious eyes not yet sincere enough To pierce the glimmered cloud that fluctuates Between me and the glorifying light That screens itself with knowledge, I discern The searching rays of wisdom that reach through The mist of shame's infirm credulity, And infinitely wonder if hard words Like mine have any message for the dead.
XIII I grant you friendship is a royal thing, But none shall ever know that royalty For what it is till he has realized His best friend in himself.
'T is then, perforce, That man's unfettered faith indemnifies Of its own conscious freedom the old shame, And love's revealed infinitude supplants Of its own wealth and wisdom the old scorn.
XIV Though the sick beast infect us, we are fraught Forever with indissoluble Truth, Wherein redress reveals itself divine, Transitional, transcendent.
Grief and loss, Disease and desolation, are the dreams Of wasted excellence; and every dream Has in it something of an ageless fact That flouts deformity and laughs at years.
XV We lack the courage to be where we are: -- We love too much to travel on old roads, To triumph on old fields; we love too much To consecrate the magic of dead things, And yieldingly to linger by long walls Of ruin, where the ruinous moonlight That sheds a lying glory on old stones Befriends us with a wizard's enmity.
XVI Something as one with eyes that look below The battle-smoke to glimpse the foeman's charge, We through the dust of downward years may scan The onslaught that awaits this idiot world Where blood pays blood for nothing, and where life Pays life to madness, till at last the ports Of gilded helplessness be battered through By the still crash of salvatory steel.
XVII To you that sit with Sorrow like chained slaves, And wonder if the night will ever come, I would say this: The night will never come, And sorrow is not always.
But my words Are not enough; your eyes are not enough; The soul itself must insulate the Real, Or ever you do cherish in this life -- In this life or in any life -- repose.
XVIII Like a white wall whereon forever breaks Unsatisfied the tumult of green seas, Man's unconjectured godliness rebukes With its imperial silence the lost waves Of insufficient grief.
This mortal surge That beats against us now is nothing else Than plangent ignorance.
Truth neither shakes Nor wavers; but the world shakes, and we shriek.
XIX Nor jewelled phrase nor mere mellifluous rhyme Reverberates aright, or ever shall, One cadence of that infinite plain-song Which is itself all music.
Stronger notes Than any that have ever touched the world Must ring to tell it -- ring like hammer-blows, Right-echoed of a chime primordial, On anvils, in the gleaming of God's forge.
XX The prophet of dead words defeats himself: Whoever would acknowledge and include The foregleam and the glory of the real, Must work with something else than pen and ink And painful preparation: he must work With unseen implements that have no names, And he must win withal, to do that work, Good fortitude, clean wisdom, and strong skill.
XXI To curse the chilled insistence of the dawn Because the free gleam lingers; to defraud The constant opportunity that lives Unchallenged in all sorrow; to forget For this large prodigality of gold That larger generosity of thought, -- These are the fleshly clogs of human greed, The fundamental blunders of mankind.
XXII Forebodings are the fiends of Recreance; The master of the moment, the clean seer Of ages, too securely scans what is, Ever to be appalled at what is not; He sees beyond the groaning borough lines Of Hell, God's highways gleaming, and he knows That Love's complete communion is the end Of anguish to the liberated man.
XXIII Here by the windy docks I stand alone, But yet companioned.
There the vessel goes, And there my friend goes with it; but the wake That melts and ebbs between that friend and me Love's earnest is of Life's all-purposeful And all-triumphant sailing, when the ships Of Wisdom loose their fretful chains and swing Forever from the crumbled wharves of Time.



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